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Thursday, 3 August, 2000, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Chief constable hears reform concerns
Nationalist/unionist battle continues over policing
Nationalist/unionist battle continues over policing
A delegation of nationalist politicians met the head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary on Thursday to discuss issues surrounding controversial police reform.

Members of the Social Democratic and Labour Party discussed the implementation of the Patten Report on the future of policing in Northern Ireland.

Nationalists and republicans are concerned that the Police (NI) Bill represents a "watered down" version of the report drawn up by a body headed by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten.

Following the meeting SDLP policing spokesman Alex Attwood said the party were given a hearing but "had not got all the answers" that they wanted.

SDLP policing spokesman Alex Attwood
Alex Attwood: "We are still not reassured"
He said: "When we see a programme of change by the chief constable that implements Patten in the spirit and the letter, that is the only basis to be reassured.

"Certainly today we have more information and we are in a position to draw further conclusions. But we are not in a position to be reassured, or to move beyond our well stated position on Patten generally."

'Fault lines'

SDLP assembly members Eamonn O'Neill, John Tierney and Patricia Lewsley also met Sir Ronnie.

Mr Attwood said his party are still concerned about "fault lines and opportunities" in a British Government plan to implement the report.

"There are some useful developments in the implementation plan but there are also more matters which are dubious and damaging," he said.

"The SDLP has advised the chief constable of the opportunities as well as the fault lines in the plan."

SDLP delegation is meeting Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Mr Tierney said the plan referred to Programme for Change which was designed by the chief constable and he called for this to be published immediately.

"This document has not been published. Its contents are unknown. There has been no consultation on its contents."

He said the document was understood to contain over 900 recommendations for policing change.

"It is impossible to know what is happening within the police without sight of this document and it is equally impossible to have confidence in the process of change without reviewing and revising the details of the document."

The UK government's proposals for reform of the police service are a key plank of the Good Friday Agreement.

But the issue of policing remains fraught as unionists remain strongly opposed to changing the name of the RUC and its insignia - both deemed necessary moves by nationalists and republicans, and recommended by Chris Patten's commission.

The policing Bill is due to return to the House of Commons in October.

A delegation from the Ulster Democratic Party also met Sir Ronnie to discuss the security situation and police reform.

They also raised the issue of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission's admission that accidentally passed information about loyalist bandsmen to a member of Sinn Fein.

Speaking after the meeting UDP leader Gary McMichael said that just because nationalists were not happy with the Bill, it did not mean unionists were happy with it.

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See also:

31 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair and Ahern 'take stock'
30 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Further calls to drop RUC
18 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson warns against RUC 'hype'
14 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Resignation threat row over Police Bill
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